Workout Clothes to Make You Feel Cool When You Feel Woefully Uncool at the Gym

What does one even wear to barre?
Publish date:
January 26, 2016
fitness, sports bras, sweats, workout clothes

Tomorrow is the day: I'm attending my first ClassPass class. After much procrastinating and emailing my ClassPass liaison (her name is Megan and she's an absolute peach), I settled on an hour-long barre and strength-training class at Pop Physique because Megan said it isn't too intense and it's a "wearing socks" class so I don't have to wear my ratty sneakers in front of anyone.

My biggest fear in any given situation is that everyone will look at me and know I don't belong there. This feeling is magnified when I'm in a place where I feel other or less than. Where do I feel other or less than? More often than not, it's in places where people are affluent, put-together, and Caucasian. As such, I was very pleased when a head cold and the weather kept me from using my free month of Equinox here at 225 Liberty Street. I'm scared to even go to the juice bar there. I don't even like walking past the entrance.

It is possible that I know what you're thinking right now. It is possible that what you're thinking is what my mother and my fiancé and my psychiatrist all tell me: The only one who thinks you're out of place is you because you're anxious and you allow anxiety to dictate where you go and what you do. Stop wallowing and go out and have a good time. The anxiety will lessen and you can live like a real person.


But my mom and fiancé and psychiatrist are right. The first step into a shiny, new place is painful. The next hesitant step is tolerable, and once I start really wading in I feel fine and better than fine and however a duck feels when its bobbing through the idyllic waterway of choice.

I want to feel like a duck — a very, very happy duck — when I work out in a new gym. I'll be focused on my body and what it's accomplishing and not how it looks in a line of other bodies or how ill-fitting my yoga pants are. I (read: you) am not the clothes I (again, read: you) wear to the gym. Rather than feverishly internet-shopping my way into debt and buying breathable fiber, hyper-color, neon-patterned, matchy-matchy insert-whatever-the-twin-set-equivalent-of-workout-gear-is-here, I like to work out in clothes that make me feel like me. Clothes that embody my personal style without being on-trend or try-hard or anxiety-causing. Clothes that are a little odd and a little goofy but totally worthy of being in a fancy gym (like yours truly).

RAYGUN T-shirts

Since I'm marrying into a Midwestern family, I now know that Iowa and Wisconsin are shaped differently, Iowa farmers don't grow potatoes, and RAYGUN makes the best cotton tee-shirts in the whole world.

If I try to talk people at a new gym, I lose the ability to swallow my saliva (you know, how one does autonomically) and either choke or drool. It's unflattering. Instead of risking public humiliation by introducing myself, I like my clothes to tell those around me about my hobbies, interests, and sense of humor.

While the rest of my workout wardrobe is selected to be utterly unobtrusive and forgettable, I like a tee-shirt that says, "I watch college football and am well-rounded and the Hawks are coming back next season with a vengeance." Is $21 — the going rate for most of RAYGUN's tee's — a lot for a tee-shirt? Maybe. But feeling like a person in a room full of strangers is priceless.

ModCloth Workout Pants (They're NOT Leggings, Calm Down)

This one time when I was thirteen and in ballet class, the instructor flicked my pink-tight-sheathed thigh with a finger, sucked her teeth and shook her head. For many years afterwards, I only ever wore black bottoms in any and all exercise situations because, in my mind, "pink makes you look fat." However, as I've gotten older, I've started to embrace mixing it up from the waist down.

This could be because I enjoy rock-climbing and serious rock climbers wear the craziest pants in the gym or because screw that ballet instructor or because ModCloth exists. Whichever one — I don't really care. I do really care that any and all inner-thigh and butt sweat does not create a "did-she-wet-herself" stain on my ass. Don't laugh. I have been burned before by black cotton yoga pants. I won't go back there. No sir. No way.

One big selling point for the ModCloth is that the clothes are just plain made well. It might just be a tiny cut out on the calf or a nice detail on the back of the leg, but the little touches on these pants (and they fact that they're pretty much all a giant hug on the legs) makes a difference when I'm nervous in a new gym.

The Gentlest, Comfiest Sports Bra EVER

First off, I have been blessed with manageable mammary glands. Secondly, I freak out if I feel constrained. Having your chest feel tight because you're nervous and because your breasts are flattened against your body is not a good feeling.

While I've tried various bells and whistles brands before — strap your boobs down with velcro! — I always find myself swinging back to Target to pick up a C9 racerback sports bra. Ranging in price from about $15 (on sale days) to $25, they're the only brand I've worn that doesn't make me feel smothered if I start breathing hard.

What do you wear to bolster your self-confidence at the gym? Do you roll in fabulously caviler and unkempt and sweat like a rockstar in black cotton tatters? Do you prefer a more Kate Hudson workout twinset ethereal yoga goddess approach? Tell me all about it (and tell me everything is going to be okay tomorrow) in the comments.

While we're on the subject of working out in public without dying of crippling anxiety, there are only TWO DAYS left to win a trip to Tracy Anderson's Vitality Week. Check out all the contest details here.